Seeing Singapore on a shoestring

September, 03/2017 - 09:00

“The best thing about youth is that no matter where you are, no matter the difficulties you face or even how little money you have, as long as you keep your spirit, your journey will always be a happy one.” Hoàng Hồ found that out in Singapore, one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Burst of colour: Be amazed by thousands of beautiful orchids in the National Orchid Garden. — VNS Photo Hồ Hoàng
Viet Nam News


Hồ Hoàng

After three weeks as an exchange student in Malaysia, I wanted to spend my holiday seeing somewhere new. I chose the bright lights of Singapore with two of my closest friends from Hong Kong: Jason and Angeline.

As exchange students, we don’t have much money to spend and Singapore is far from cheap. In order to have a wonderful experience on a limited budget, we came up with a schedule called: "Singapore on a shoestring." I never expected the trip to become one of the best of my young life.

We departed with small bags and to save money, we took a bus from Kedah (a state in Malaysia) to Singapore for only RM80 (about US$19), which is a lot cheaper than flying.

Although our trip took 10 hours, we survived on a mixture of excitement and apprehension. This was the first time I had been to Singapore and I was excited to see the city. In my mind, Singapore is famous for its many tourist attractions, such as Universal Studios, the iconic Marina Bay Sands and the unique Botanical Gardens.

After passing through customs, we continued our journey and finally reached the Golden Mile Complex station at 10am – beginning our first day in Singapore. Normally, tourists use taxis or Uber to travel, which can be expensive. A cheaper and faster option is the MRT because it is modern and stations are dotted around the city. We bought a Tourist transportation card for only S$20 and found the route to China Town which was near our hotel.

We arrived at the Chic Capsule Otel on 13 Mosque St just 15 minutes later. The hotel offered big dorm rooms for about S$52/day, slightly higher than we hoped, but we were swayed by the free breakfast. Free chocolate at the end of the day was an added bonus. The friendly staff made us feel at home instantly.

We dived right into the hustle and bustle of China Town. The atmosphere was lively and the streets were crowded. We spent the first night wandering, taking pictures and buying souvenirs.

The second day, we woke up early, knowing we were on a tight schedule and wanted to cram a lot of sightseeing into a few hours. We were prepared for a lot of walking. In the morning, we went to discover the NUS (National University of Singapore) – the biggest in Singapore.

I was taken with the University Culture Centre and its 8,000 artifacts and works of art that represent the history of Singapore.

After a quick lunch, we continued our journey to Little India in the afternoon. There were many shops selling Indian products, a temple, and a big museum showing the history of India. Body art shops offered to draw intricate designs on your skin. My friend Angeline got a really nice design on her hand for just S$10.

After wandering around Little India, we went to the famous Haji Lane – a lovely little road among the crowded streets of Singapore. Haji Lane was picturesque, with many beautiful souvenir shops and unique murals on the walls. We only wished the lane was longer.

Next up was Universal Studios in Sentosa Complex (USS). Having been told it is a must-visit spot in Singapore, we followed the advice and headed there on our third day.

Narrow street: Haji Lane is a quieter corner of Singapore, with many beautiful shops, restaurants and murals. — VNS Photo Hồ Hoàng

We decided to take things slower on our fourth day and picked the UNESCO heritage site Singapore Botanic Gardens. The Botanic Gardens were founded 158 years ago, and feature natural tropical forests and an ecosystem encapsulating thousands of plant and animal species.

From the visitor centre, we walked to the first tropical forest. It was amazing to see so many kinds of trees, plants and wild animals.

After taking photos at the famous Bandstand, we headed to the highlight of the Botanic Gardens – the National Orchid Garden, which is located on the highest hill and has all kinds of splendid orchids.

We were astonished by the diversity of flowers. There were some unique varieties and some I had never seen before. Later on, we discovered that the garden has a total of 60,000 orchid plants, consisting of more than 1,000 species and more than 2,000 hybrids.

Another day well spent, and another 20,000 steps taken. We were sad because our journey was coming to an end, so we decided to make the last day in Singapore one to remember.

By coincidence our last day was also the rehearsals for Singapore’s National Day celebrations, so we planned to go to Merlion Park and say farewell with fireworks.

We arrived to find that everyone had the same idea. Despite the crowds we got some great views of not only Merlion Park but also the magnificent Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer. The scenery was outstanding!

To prepare for the show, Angeline suggested we eat on Lau Pa Sat (18 Raffle Quay street) which has a number of cheap restaurants. I was lucky to find a Vietnamese restaurant, and I invited my friends to try phở for S$5. It turned out to be very good, and my friends couldn’t help but say: “I’ve never tried something like this before; I didn’t know Vietnamese food was this good.” I was proud of my home.

I’ll always treasure the journey to Singapore. It’s not all about the destination, it’s about who you go with and what you experience: “The best thing about youth is that no matter where you are, no matter the difficulties you face or even how little money you have, as long as you keep your spirit, your journey will always be a happy one.” Even if you have to walk more than 90,000 steps. — VNS